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Monday, July 9, 2007

Getting Plainfield records online ought to be a priority

Circled items show examples of what can be done.
(Click to enlarge.)

Putting public records online is a good idea and so is starting now.

As the beefed-up Open Public Records Act (OPRA) turns five, the media have been looking at its successes and remaining challenges.

For Plainfielders, starting now would mean starting with local, homegrown records -- those concerning what is going on in our community day in and day out.

South Jersey Assemblyman James Whelan has proposed (A4251) putting ALL government records online, beginning by putting all NEW records online within thirty days and then working backwards.

From the local point of view, the ground has been laid for years to make much of this possible at once.

Of most interest on a daily basis are probably the agendas, minutes and resolutions of the governing body and the various boards and commissions, as well as ordinances proposed and enacted.

(For a good example of what can be done, check out the City of Topeka, Kansas, where former Plainfield City Administrator Norton Bonaparte is now City Manager.)

It should come as no surprise that these documents are already in digital format, even though -- out of habit -- copies are churned out on reams of paper for consumption by everyone involved and/or interested.

What extra effort would it take to put these online? Not much, and it certainly would save the staff time needed to find and photocopy same for public requests.

Perhaps a little more difficult, but just as worthy of being done, now that we are in full court press on development, would be to require development proposals to be filed electronically with the Planning Division -- from renderings to site plans to presentations, narratives and specs.

Again, these materials are, for the most part, already created electronically. What is needed is the extra step of making those electronic documents available for the public in an online, searchable format.

And, with a workable website, all this should be a snap.

Did I mention a workable website?

There we go with COMMUNICATIONS again...

Ledger -- 7/8/2007: "For OPRA, a proposal requiring all public records be put online"
Courier --
  1. 7/4/2007: "DEP faces bulk of records requests"
  2. 7/5/2007: "Law gives watchdogs expanded access" -- Plus "Gadfly praise"
  3. 7/6/2007: "Open records laws boon to campaigns"
  4. 7/7/2007: "Officials still debating legislative exemption"
  5. 7/8/2007: "The ways to retrieve information changing"
-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said... look here for an example of USEFUL information a town can give.